Words & Advice from Lucy Corin

I had the pleasure of talking to Lucy Corin after her panel Saturday afternoon. The darker and somewhat controversial themes that appeared in her reading inspired me to start a conversation that dealt with my own concerns as a writer of more mature (and often deeply personal) material.

KW: As a writer, are you ever worried about who is going to read your writing and how they’re going to respond to it?

LC: I think I am thinking about that more now than I ever have before. If you’d asked me that question ten or fifteen years ago, I would have said something to the effect of “That’s they’re problem! Your duty is to art!” And I still believe that to a large extent, but I think that was because I was privileged to have a super supportive family. I mean, even to a strange point where my mother would read an unflattering description of a mother that was sort of like her and not really notice that it wasn’t that flattering. Or she would only see the parts of it that she felt were… At least, she was able to make herself get behind it. And she had the same ideals, that it’s about art. It was really wonderful, but I also think that things change, you know? Families change, and their ideas about your work, for instance, can change over time. Certainly my family’s relationship to me and my work has changed over time. So in some ways, you can almost never make the right decision, because everything might change. You might do just right by your family now, and then fifteen years later, it suddenly was wrong. It’s so personal, and you just have to be… There has to be a confluence between being ethical as a person in the world and being ethical as a writer. Those things are not separate. But you also have to choose the parts of the world that you feel you have to do right by. That may or may not be your family, it depends on you and your family. It may be your family, but it may not be your family.

(After some back and forth conversation about writing something deeply personal and struggling with the decision of who should or shouldn’t read it.)

LC: You’re going to write something that you care about and even though it’s beautiful, some people are going to not think so. And even though it came from your heart, they’re not going to see that. You have no control over that. I would say, try really hard to make a sacred space for your writing and then decide later – after you’ve done it in the privacy of your world, writing for the person that can hear you best, some imaginary creature that hears you best and is just as smart as you and just as loving as you – after that, then you decide. Do I publish it? Do I keep it secret? Do I just share it with my friends? Do I publish it under a pseudonym? You have many options, and you don’t have to decide while you’re writing.